Outdoor Discoveries

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Conwy

A year when an unwanted adventure arrived

31st December 2020

We live in a time when all sorts of activities are being sold as adventures. Even a day hike falls into scope for this yet I do not need such branding to make me take advantage of such a possibility. A day with good weather spent in the midst of hill country or along a scenic coastline will do the job for me equally as well. In fact, it has been sufficient sufficient for longer than I care to recall.

2020 has been full of those in spite of the threat that it brought our way. They may have been near home for much of the time so it is just as well that I can walk into nearby hills from the front door of my own house. Long circuits taking in Shining Tor, Cheshire’s county top, along with Croker Hill, Bosley Reservoir and a host of other nearby landmarks saw me begin a summer of longer walks.

Some took me back home from a starting point reached by public transport. These included such places as Buxton, Knutsford, Disley and Whaley Bridge with the second entry on that list being the longest of the lot. The weather was mainly fair too apart from the occasional wetting.

Getting a little braver took me a little further afield. For instance, there were tow long hikes between Leek and Buxton, something that lay in my ideas shelf for far too long. Day trips to Church Stretton in Shropshire and Llandudno in Conway became the limits of my perambulations for the year before a cold weather walk from Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith bookended things and an autumn of lockdown, less enticing weather and an indoor learning project became my lot.

Still, good memories got made in spite of the pandemic and these even included visits to Sheffield that I am not enthused about doing at the timing of writing these words. The hills may have been smaller but the wandering got me away from humanity even if more found their local countryside this year than ever before.

While 2021 lies ahead of us, it is difficult to plan ahead right now. There has been an upsurge in the number of cases of COVID that needs to abate and it does feel that vaccination cannot happen fast enough. This may may the darkest hour before a new dawn but I plan to get to a brighter future before making too many plans.

Of course, we still can dream. This time last year, I was pondering which part of the U.S. to visit  during the summer months. After reading about the states of Washington, Oregon, Wyoming , Montana, Colorado, I settled on the last of these and that remains on the ideas shelf. The Azores are found on there as is the possibility of Madeira and locations nearer home appeal too.

Webinars from Wanderlust as well as the Adventure Travel Festival all fuelled my imagination though dreams of round the world motorcycle or walking trips remain out of the question. It remains good to hear the stories of other explorers’ exploits though and they help to brighten what has been a dark time for many of us.

My book reading continues in much the same vein as I sit out the necessary period of time that is needed for things to settle again. Patience is much required by those of us able to stay safe while we think of those not in such a fortunate position. Adventures can take their toll and this one certainly has so we only can await the prospect of happier ones should they come out way.

Lazy loading

5th September 2020

It may be autumn now and the nights really are drawing in on us but I still have walking ideas. They are fairly local, which is useful given the times in which we find ourselves. For instance, I have another idea for a walk between Whaley Bridge and Macclesfield: this one would go via the Goyt Valley instead of Taxal Edge where the previous ones went.

There is another and that brings me to recent wanderings. One of those took me from Leek to Buxton via Ramshaw Rocks. Since the day became dull, I would like to go back to those rocky outcrops again to come away with better photos. The route could be varied according to available hours of daylight if so needed.

Other rambles did better with sunshine. One took me around hills near Church Stretton in Shropshire while another gained me my only exposure to sea air of the year so far. That was around the Great Orme near Llandudno in Wales and it rounded off an extended bank holiday weekend that also featured the aforementioned Shropshire and Staffordshire/Derbyshire hikes. All were good for my emotional well-being during what has been a very tough year.

As a dark patch continues to lift, I also got in some website tinkering and that explains the title of this post. Some may not have heard of the term but many will have encountered the behaviour: a web page that does not load all at once but only when a visitor scrolls down far enough to need the outstanding sections. That is called lazy loading and I decided to try it out with the images on this blog. If it is too much of an acquired taste or is too distracting, just let me know and I will make adjustments. Otherwise, the tinkering and the toddling will continue.

A look back at 2011

26th December 2011

For me, 2011 will have to be seen as one when work very much got in the way of hill wandering. Even if it did, I did get out on quite a few excursions over its course and some of them took me places where I hadn’t been before then. Also, there was a sense of unfinished business with a few of them and that always produces ideas for new trips into the outdoors.

January

January started out well with a few trips away. The first was to Wales when I walked from Roman Bridge station on the Conwy Valley railway line to Pen y Pass. A grey start became a glorious afternoon and repaid the nuisance of going through a forestry plantation where the right of way felt unwanted. Slipping on a branch into the wet didn’t help either but it soon forgotten with the pleasure granted soon afterwards. Sometimes, it is worth overcoming any ardour.

The January trip took me north to Fort William. This time, sunshine was in short supply and Fort William was so foggy that anyone would need to ask themselves why they had travelled overnight to get there as I did. Crewe was very foggy when I left it too so this was a general feature and not just a local Scottish one. Nevertheless, a trot down the banks of Loch Shiel was not fogbound and I was pencilling in plans for a return that have yet to be fulfilled. Glenfinnan saw a little sun too though it didn’t last but thoughts of explorations on a longer evening beguile. There’s thoughts of a shorter stroll around Cow Hill near Fort William that too could act as a lure yet.

The last weekend in January saw me use up a ferry booking that was a contingency for getting to Ireland during the pre-Christmas freeze of 2010 but got deferred so as to allow its cancellation and refund. That latter intention got set aside and  I got to have an enjoyable yomp around Howth Head near Dublin. There again was a quota in operation regarding the amount of sunshine but I got enough for photos of Ireland’s Eye and Lambay Island. It would have been nice to have kept it for rounding the headland itself but there was no detraction from my enjoyment apart from the need to return under cover street lights before it became too dark. Finding such a quiet haven so near Dublin was a pleasure and looking across Dublin drew my eyes to the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. From a previous escapade, I could pick out Great Sugarloaf near Kilmacanogue in County Wicklow. Viewing twinkling street lights from a quiet corner was a contrasting experience too. It’s amazing what Dubliners have on their doorstep.

February & March

The only trip away during these was one that took me to Oxford at the start of February. That certainly wasn’t a waste of a good day and I might be tempted to return again. In fact, it has me wondering about more urban walking destinations now that I recall it. Cambridge certainly has come to mind but there’s more than those with more humble destinations like Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Lancaster and Carlisle all coming to mind briefly once in a while over the last few years.

April, May & June

In another year, the good weather in February and March would have drawn me out in the countryside on a few weekends but 2011 was to see the next chance taken to await the start of April when I walked from Bollington back home while taking in the Kerridge ridge and the White Nancy. It may have been local but became an escape into peace in its own right. It was a reminder that there are places on my doorstep that needed frequenting more often.

It was to take until latter half of the Easter weekend for there to be another trip away from home. Then, it was a return to Llangollen after a gap of a number of years and this was to be my first trip there that involved an overnight stay in the town too. The peace of Easter Sunday evening wasn’t lost on me though it meant leaving the crowds of Llangollen after me and a commotion of bleating to die down once a large party had passed a flock of ewes and lambs. The paths that I was walking were being retraced rather than being trodden anew but that did nothing to detract from the fact that the everyday hurly burly felt a world away. That there was no need to rush home was a blessing too. The next day saw me wandering through countryside where I hadn’t been before and part of the North Berwyn Way for part of my walk. Not planning to cover too much in the way of distance meant that it was an unhurried hike and they always are best. Those who hang around Llangollen without exploring the surrounding countryside really are missing out even if that leaves it quiet for those of us fancying an escape from the frenzy of our working lives.

The Mayday bank holiday weekend immediately followed Easter this year and was extended by a royal wedding too. That encouraged me to head to Cowal for the weekend and it was a worthwhile venture too with three walks on two days. The first took me by the shores of Loch Long and Loch Goil while en route from Ardentinny to Carrick Castle. That was followed by another on the same day: a section of the Cowal Way from the shore of Loch Goil to Strachur. It was all good quiet replenishing fare for the spirit and in a part of the world that must get overlooked a lot as well.

The weather in May wasn’t so encouraging and June was a busy month for me too though it too had its interludes of sunshine. One of those drew me out early one Sunday morning on a cycle from my home around by Pott Shrigley. A January encounter from a few years back had me wondering if some photography when the rhododendron bushes were in flower might be worthwhile. However, I hadn’t bargained on the obscuring power of trees when they are in leaf so I am not so sure about the results evening if the sun was in the right part of the sky. Maybe a trot to the top of nearby Nab Head might end up being more productive.

July

July saw a bumper crop of outings with the first taking me along sections of St. Cuthbert’s Way. That weekend started with a hike from Wooler to Kirk Yetholm whose length left me tired but with a feeling that I have made a real start on exploring the landscape though which I had passed. The next day saw me walk from St. Boswells to Melrose while taking in both Dryburgh Abbey and the Eildon Hills. Lastly, I got to spend a few hours around Melrose Abbey in the summer heat.

The Isle of Man was my next port of call with a walk along Raad ny Foillan from Port Erin to Port St. Mary and then to Castletown. Apart from single shower, I seemed to have managed to pick a single sunny day in the middle of an unsettled spell of weather. It was sunny weather too that drew me to castles and coastline about the Menai Strait. Apart from revisiting Caernarfon and its famous castle, there was Beaumaris Castle and a section of the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path to be savoured too. That weekend finished with a sunny crossing over the Menai Bridge. It was a contrast to the damp weekend spent in Ireland that preceded it. The last weekend in July saw me pass through mid Wales on the way to Gower. Conditions may not have been perfect or photography either along the Heart of Wales railway or in Gower but these first tastes may be followed later with more.

Remainder of the Year

Autumn had its sunnier interludes too but a busy working life limited my use of them to local cycles. One Saturday, I headed to Hare Hill and Alderley Edge and that has put an afternoon walk between the two into my mind as a future possibility. Others were similar and there were midday walks during a stretch when I worked from home too.

A few days booked away from work in December offered their chances too. The possibilities lined up in form of excursions to Church Stretton, Abergavenny and even Edinburgh. In the event, only the first of these happened and it was a pleasurable outing too with sleet showers doing nothing to dispel any sense of reverie. The leftovers can do for other occasions so I need not be annoyed that they didn’t happen. It’s better not to be greedy.

Looking to 2012

Some years can be more predictable than others, especially when it comes to working lives. There were a few for me when they came close but unpredictability is back again for me. 2012 looks to be a largely open book after a busy 2011 and a 2010 of two halves. Life away from work always is unpredictable so there’s no point attempting to see around all the corners.

On the hill wandering front, there aren’t any big plans for me in 2012 although there is a good number of ideas that are available for turning into real escapades. A little is needed for making that happen and that perhaps is one of the main lessons of 2011. If you cannot plan for an excursion and be ready to get away, then it just won’t happen. A ready supply of ideas and a ready rucksack might turn those ideas into outings and confront any desire for torpor on the way out the door.

Some soggy yet varied Welsh wandering

17th February 2011

Unusually for me, this year’s hill wanderings got an early start with a day out in Wales on the second Saturday of the year. That outing took me to Roman Bridge in the Lledr Valley from where I hiked to Pen y Pass using a route of my own devising and it was hard to say that it wasn’t varied either. First, there was a little variety in the weather but the mix of terrain included soggy forest floors and waterlogged moorland. Even sheep pasture was to feel anything but dry. Because the day itself wasn’t the warmest, it was best to be shod in waterproof boots and not to fall in the wet either.

The journey from Macclesfield allowed a break at Llandudno Junction to make whatever I could of the directional light that was falling upon Conwy Castle and its surroundings. In marked contrast, it was under cloudy skies that I set off from Roman Bridge train station. As overcast as things were, snow-topped hills still drew the eye. There even was a feeling of dampness in the air as I plied first the single track road and then a public footpath towards Blaenau Dolwyddelan before starting on the right of way that was set to take me into what was to feel like an unloved commercial forestry; the experience made it easy to see why there was so much opposition to the U.K. government’s now dropped plans for selling off land managed by the Forestry Commission. Navigational uncertainties were put behind me and breaks began to appear in the cloud too before a crossing of Ceunant y Garnedd was needed. The signs of untended landscape were apparent in the lack of a bridge and the presence of still fallen trees that allowed me to get over what was a fast flowing watercourse. Something tells me that this might be fordable in drier spells of weather but that was not how I was to find it at the start of 2011.

Cloud cover breaking over trees near Blaenau Dolwyddelan, Conwy, Wales

Initially, the public footpath through the forestry didn’t seem too unkind but more fallen trees and stray growing saplings were to make my passage tricky with stream crossings and some well made sections of path obstructed by what felt like extraneous upstarts. Their presence reminded me of a trot along the Rob Roy Way from Aberfoyle to Callander a few years back when I spied a gentleman out with a chainsaw removing the same class of greenery from the sides of a vehicle track through a forest plantation overlooking Loch Venachar. My experiences in the Welsh counterpart around Garnedd Pen y Bont were planting ideas of bringing untoward implements like billhooks and chainsaws along to clear my way in the future. Of course, those outlandish notions were given short shrift though they may in part explain the recent furore about the U.K. government’s plans for Forestry Commission land. While I accept the imperfections of that institution, they have been known to do some good work and I have encountered the fruits of that around Arrochar and Glenfinnan in Scotland.

Whatever about the battles fought with vegetation, the sun did start peep through those growing breaks in the clouds to light up what was around me and allow some views of what lay behind me. With time, I was shortening the distance to the edge of the forestry with conditions underfoot getting ever more mushy and with some lying snow where it wasn’t so waterlogged too. The general state of the ground was causing me to keep as close to the roots of trees too even if that had me battling with headstrong branches. Any fallen branches that could convey me over the unsound stuff were gratefully used too. However, it was a foolhardy step onto a slender slippery branch that was the cause of sending me out on my side in the muddy wet. Did I mention earlier that this wasn’t the best of days for such misadventures? Even so, there was nothing broken and I soon dried without any ill effects, though clothes needed washing when I got home!

Moel Siabod as seen from the west, Blaenau Dolwyddelan, Conwy, Wales

Looking towards hills surrounding Crimea Pass, Blaenau Dolwyddelan, Conwy, Wales

My braving that tree colony was well rewarded when I exited it. Clouds had become really well broken by then and pleasing vistas faced me wherever I happened to gaze so long as a cloud didn’t go sneaking in front of the sun. Those featuring Carnedd Moel Siabod probably were among the more photographically interesting that I’ve ever seen; the side-on views that I have been known to record seem a little less fascinating these days. Other hills that now are harder to identify caught the sun and a return is needed for the sake of working out exactly which is which. Looking at the photos that I made now shows little if any sign of the water that lay on the ground without making it as difficult to negotiate as in that forest through which I had passed.

Yr Aran from Bwlch y Rhediad, Beddgelert, Gwynedd, Wales

Y Lliwedd from Bwlch y Rhediad, Beddgelert, Gwynedd, Wales

It’s amazing how the hills before need not always be what you think they are. After comparing photos to pick out Yr Aran to the south-west of Llyn Gwynant and Y Lliwedd, one of the flanks of the Snowdon horseshoe, I get the sense that getting out a compass while out in the empty quiet places for the sake of working out which hill is which should be something to do more often while out in complex countryside. Once upon a time, it was a great help in working out my surroundings during a hike along the West Highland Way between Kingshouse Hotel and Kinlochleven. The day in question may not have granted me the photo opportunities for which I’d been hoping but things now make a lot more sense afterwards.

As I dropped down to the floor of the Glaslyn valley, I was to see more of those Welsh hills that gave me cause for a spot of mental action. The positioning of the sun and clouds were to play a part in denying me the chance of acquiring nice photos but those that I did came in very useful afterwards. Losing height all the while, the surroundings changed from open moorland to walled pasture to woodland. The latter proved to be more natural and more friendly to the passing walker than my previous brush with woodland on the day and the gradients down which I was descending. There were views down the valley towards Beddgelert and up it towards the Snowdon hills and the Glyderau upon which to gaze during any well-earned break.

Gallt y Wenallt & Glyder Fach, Glaslyn Valley, Beddgelert, Gwynedd, Wales

Because more level ground was reached, there was the matter of crossing the A498 and dropping down yet another steep incline. Temptingly, a Snowdon Sherpa bus service passed but I decided not to halt it at short notice, probably a sensible decision. More tarmac walking was in order along a quiet single track road before I crossed well soggy fields to reach the other side of the valley. Golden late January afternoon sunshine blessed my surroundings so I was happy to have continued my walk in place of what could have been a premature finish. The track along which I was journeying was a quality affair leading from a campsite and it was tempting to think that it would have been great if it remained that way all of the way to Pen y Pass.

That proved to be wishful thinking as things grew rougher on approach what looked for all the world like a church refurbished as a dwelling place. In fact, it was a far more industrial installation in the form of a waterworks, if I remember correctly. With an awareness of fading light, I kept going though I was to follow the line of the right of way more loosely than I might have intended. Later on, that manifested itself in my taking a route to Pen y Pass of my own making with my being deceived by a line of electricity poles into following Nant Cynnyd while battling the sort of tussocky grass that was reminding me of a walk from Ardlui to Butterbridge on a day when the advertised sunshine failed to materialise. However, this was access land so I was free to plot my own with any loss of height and walking became easier as I gained height too. It didn’t take too long to reach the well-travelled path that I had been seeking with the A4086 lying above me to my right. Light was failing so a head torch was pressed into service so that I reached the Snowdon Sherpa bus down to Llanberis in time. It may have involved one last push of faltering legs but there was no bad end to what in many ways had been a superb outing. In fact, I am pondering future visits to these parts and reprise of the trot from Roman Bridge to Pen y Pass or Beddgelert cannot be ruled out of contention. Next time though, that commercial woodland might be best avoided.

Travel Arrangements:

Train from Macclesfield to Roman Bridge. Snowdon Sherpa from Pen y Pass to Llanberis, Padarn Bus service from Llanberis to Bangor, train from Bangor to Macclesfield.

A “They’re On You!” Moment

15th January 2011

With the deluges that have fallen over Wales, Cumbria, the North Pennines and Scotland, today wouldn’t have made for a pleasurable day’s walking. Last weekend though, things were very different and I took myself to Wales for a hike from Roman Bridge to Pen y Pass. The ground was waterlogged in many places then so it leaves nothing to the imagination to realise how easy it would be for rivers to rise with heavy rain falling on the hills like it has been doing today. Thoughts of visiting castles at Beaumaris and Caernarfon may be entering my head but I reckon that I’ll leave things settle a little before any other Welsh outing after what came the way. Macclesfield may not have fared to badly but you only have to hear of railway line closures to realise how hard a time other places are having.

Conwy Castle and Estuary, Conwy, Wales

With regard to last weekend’s hike, my usual practice of saying more in a little while applies here too but one happenstance really stands out in my memory so I’ll recall it here. Whether it was due to being tired at the end of the walk or my being distracted by the need to catch a bus, I managed to stuff my head torch into my trousers pocket only to let it fall from my brain that I’d done so; daylight was failing while I took a little longer than I’d intended so the extra lighting was a big help. The item itself is a Petzl LED affair but it did nothing to make its presence known to me when I went looking for it again until it finally dawned on me where it might have gone. It’s a reminder both of how smaller some things are getting because my older Petzl would be nowhere near as compact with its need for rather old-fashioned oblong 3LR12 batteries to provide its power. Next time, I think that I’ll make a conscious note of where the newer lamp is being put so as to curtail any subsequent head scratching.